The development of understanding others' actions through their movements

Monday 22 April 2024, 2:30 pm
PhD student
J.M. Rutkowska
prof. dr. S. Hunnius
dr. M. Meyer

This thesis examines the development of the ability to perceive emotions and intentions from movement kinematics, i.e. the way we move, in early childhood. It also investigates the robustness of the findings and methods found in the literature on emotion and intention perception in children and adults. In chapter 2, we show that 14-month-old infants can discriminate between grasping movements based on the intention of the action. In chapter 3, we found that 12-month-olds used emotional information from movement kinematics to guide their visual, but not manual, exploration. The findings from chapter 4 suggest that even adults might not always be able to access intention information in movement kinematics, for instance when the movements are presented in a naturalistic setting. Chapter 5 includes a major methodological contribution of this thesis. In chapter 5, we examined the effect of different processing practises of facial electromyography (EMG) data in emotion perception literature on its ability to detect subtle facial emotional expressions. Based on these investigations, a developmental trajectory of perceiving intentions and emotions in movement kinematics is proposed. The implications of the research work conducted in this thesis for the study of children’s socio-cognitive development are discussed. 

Joanna M. Rutkowska was born in Poniatowa, Poland. She has completed her MA (Honours) in Psychology and MSc in Evolutionary and Comparative Psychology at the University of St Andrews, Scotland. She conducted her PhD project at the BabyBRAIN group at the Donders Institute of Brain, Behaviour and Cognition, supervised by professor Sabine Hunnius and Dr Marlene Meyer. She presented her results at national and international conferences, and published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. In addition to her research work, Joanna taught several courses and supervised both Bachelor and Master’s students. She is currently working as a postdoctoral researcher in professor Moritz Daum’s group at the University of Zurich, Switzerland, where she focuses on investigating the effects of everyday experiences on bilingual and monolingual children's communication. Joanna also represents and advocates for the rights of fellow Early Career Researchers at institutional, national and international levels.